Header image courtesy of @hoshinoresorts.tomamu (via Instagram)
As travel restrictions ease and hotel quarantine for inbound travellers is scrapped, it’s time to dust off your suitcases and prepare for a trip of a lifetime this Christmas! For those of us suffering from a heavy case of wanderlust but can’t pick a place for your upcoming holiday, here’s our curated list of the best short-haul travel destinations in Asia for this festive season.
Although South Korean cities are among the most popular destinations for tourists, Jeju-do is the perfect place for those who want to get away from the unrelenting weather and concrete jungle of Hong Kong. Located off the southern coast of the country, Jeju is not only a popular retreat for tourists, but also for local people in bustling cities dotted across South Korea.
So, what can you do on Jeju this Christmas? Take a hike up Hallasan! There are five trails in total, each with its own difficulty level and completion times, catering to casual hikers and mountaineers alike! Once you reach the snowy top of the mountain, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of Jeju’s volcanic mountainscapes. All visitors to Hallasan must reserve ahead of their trip for preservation purposes. If you’re planning on conquering Hallasan this Christmas, don’t forget to book your spot!
Hallasan, Jeju-do, South Korea
We know hiking might not be for everyone, especially in the chilling winters of Jeju. For those not keen on braving the snow and harsh breeze on the mountains, head over to Camellia Hill. The garden is filled with camellias, which are in full bloom starting from December. Photograph to your heart’s content as you frolic amongst the snowy, budding flora and stoic dol hareubangs (돌 하르방; stone statues) dotted around the scenic garden.
Camellia Hill, 166 Byeongak-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do | (+82) 064 800 6296
Japan, being a popular destination for Hongkongers as always, has something unique to offer travellers this Christmas. Located in the northern isle of Hokkaido is a winter wonderland that looks like it has jumped straight out of a Christmas movie.
Ice Village is a tourist destination located in Tomamu, Hokkaido, with a mystical presence. Traditionally only appearing on winter nights, Ice Village is a community made entirely of ice, where visitors can fully immerse themselves in a frosty wonderland. A wide variety of attractions and activities are on offer, from the exciting ice zipline and slide to the cosy sweets shop and Seicomart. The prime attraction is certainly the Ice Hotel, an establishment made entirely out of ice where guests get to spend a night (or more) in an igloo-style room!
Ice Village comes to life this festive season a little later than usual, from 20 January to 28 February 2023. However, if you plan to take your holidays after the Christmas rush, this is the perfect place to still experience the magic of the season!
Ice Village, Nakatomamu, Shimukappu, Yufutsu District, Hokkaido, Japan | (+81) 167 58 1111
Don’t fancy looking at natural scenery and going on nature retreats? Why not head to India for a holiday filled with heritage and history?
The city of Agra is home to numerous historical palaces and temples in India, serving as one of the best destinations for travellers who just can’t say no to gorgeous architecture and a bit of local culture. One of the most famous historical monuments in the country, the Taj Mahal, can be found on the right bank of the river Yamuna.
Taj Mahal, Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India | (+91) 562 222 7261
If you want to delve deeper into the rich history of Agra, head over to Agra Fort. Also known as the “Red Fort,” the location housed dynasties of rulers as far back as the sixteenth century! Inside the compound, you will find the breathtakingly beautiful Sheesh Mahal (literally the “Palace of Mirrors”). Decorated with countless mirrors on the walls and ceiling, the room is truly a sight to behold when illuminated. Another building of note inside Agra Fort is Jahangiri Mahal. Historically speculated to be the principal zenana (palace for women of the royal household), it is a piece of impressive architecture worth visiting at least once in your lifetime.
Agra Fort, Rakabganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India | (+91) 562 222 6431
For lovers of tropical weather, you’re sure to be familiar with the archipelagos of the Philippines. December is the prime time to visit the islands as it is the start of its dry season! And we’ve got a unique and one-of-a-kind natural destination for you.
Christmas is usually associated with chocolate, whether in advent calendars or desserts. What if we tell you there are chocolate hills in this world? That’s right—located in the province of Bohol are the Chocolate Hills, one of the most impressive geological phenomena of the Philippines, and December is just the right month for you to see these hills turn into cocoa. As the country enters the dry season, these mounds transform into a chocolatey brown colour, standing out against the surrounding jungle’s greenery.
There are a few local legends about the origins of the Chocolate Hills. One legend goes that they are the stone and sand remains of a fight between two giants. Another says that the hills are the petrified tears of a giant who fell in love with a human. It’s for you to decide which of these stories is more accurate as you stand above the Chocolate Hills this Christmas!
Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines
Laos is home to a fountain of beautiful natural scenery and phenomena, which means it is also a great place for urban dwellers looking for a getaway from crowds, traffic, and fast-paced living. The Bolaven Plateau is the perfect destination for relaxation this Christmas.
Located in the southern regions of the country, the Bolaven Plateau can be found between the Annamite Mountain Range along the eastern border with Vietnam. On the plateau, you can find numerous rivers running across the land, with waterfalls dotted about here and there, the most famous and photogenic being Tad Fane and Dong Hua Sao.
The hilly landscape inside the Bolaven Plateau is also perfect for trekking and biking, and that’s exactly what you can do on your visit. Zoom down the various trails through rural Laos and enjoy being hugged by the serene sounds of nature.
Bolaven Plateau, Champasak Province, Laos
Just under a two-hour flight away from Hong Kong is the vibrant and lively island of Taiwan. Home to a variety of attractions, activities, and delicious food, Taiwan is definitely worth considering for your Christmas getaway this December.
December might spell turkeys, chocolate, and Christmas cake with too much brandy, but in Taiwan, the chill weather welcomes the harvest of strawberries in the north. Located in Neihu, Taipei City, is the Baishihu Leisure Agricultural Area, where visitors can enjoy a wholesome day picking strawberries. Also in the same area is the Baishihu Bridge, an impressive feat of engineering that crosses a total of four neighbouring mountains! Take a leisurely stroll along the suspended walkway as you admire the forests beneath your feet.
Baishihu, 24 Bishan Road, Neihu District, Taipei City, Taiwan | (+886) 2 27593001
Whilst December in Hong Kong calls for only cooling weather, as the end of the year draws near, snow falls on the highest points in Taiwan, one of these being Hehuanshan. Located in Central Taiwan, visitors to the Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area can take a hike to the mountain tops and take in the white-covered landscape on Christmas Day!
Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area, Sioulin Township, Hualien County and Ren’ai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan